Join your neighbors and co-workers in contributing to a school-supply drive this summer.

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THERE’S a certain symmetry in the idea of a group of Seattle tech workers using their free time to give back to the community by focusing on the issue of homelessness.

Brian Retford, the chief technology officer of Seattle startup Vertex.AI, says many who work in Seattle tech jobs recognize that they are big winners in the current economy and that they can use their resources to help the community. Friends started Seatech4housing to push tech resources and people toward the issue of homelessness. The group is focused on education and advocacy but also wants to create opportunities for tech workers to make a difference.

One recent giving-back opportunity involved the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness’ annual effort to provide homeless kids with backpacks full of school supplies. Project Cool provided a way to make a difference in a technology-related way when the coalition said they need 1,000 four-gigabit flash drives.

The flash drives will be added to pencils, notebooks and other school supplies in brand-new backpacks. Much of the money needed to buy the supplies and backpacks comes from Seattle Times readers who donate to the editorial board’s annual school-supply drive.

The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness is one of three groups benefiting from the drive that began on Independence Day and runs through Labor Day. The other two recipients are YWCA Seattle King Snohomish and Hopelink.

Last year, 764 newspaper readers donated $100,000, all of which was used to buy school supplies and backpacks for more than 4,400 children around King and Snohomish counties.

The backpacks are filled with the basics, but the nonprofits distributing them would do more if more groups like Seatech4housing stepped forward to help. For example, a graphing calculator is a very expensive necessity for high-school math that costs nearly $100. Some, but not all, schools have calculators to loan to kids whose families can’t afford them. And a few get donated every year to the various school-supply drives.

Retford says he didn’t appreciate the scale of the problem of homeless youth until he got involved in this project.

“The notion that there are thousands of homeless youth going to school is mind blowing,” Retford said. “We still have tons of things to learn.”

And Seattle Times readers can teach the community how philanthropy is done by donating to the school-supply drive this summer.